Provincial governments are eager to put COVID-19 behind them, but it remains to be seen whether residents can afford them a second chance.
On Tuesday, the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms announced that four more Public Health Act tickets issued to individuals in Alberta and Saskatchewan to exercise their Charter rights had been dropped by Crown prosecutors. The organization represents hundreds of individuals across Canada who allegedly breached public health orders.
Lucas Ignjatic, a Calgary man, went to the Calgary courthouse on March 5, 2021, to file legal documents in a family law matter, which would have allowed him to request more time with his daughter. After waiting in line for 30 minutes to have a clerk assist him, two courthouse sheriffs removed him from the line because he was not wearing a mask.
The penalty for not following the city’s mask bylaw includes a minimum $500 fine, a significant increase from the initial $100 fine.
He advised the sheriffs of his mask exemption but was issued a $1200 ticket for failing to comply with an Order of the Chief Medical Officer of Health. Mr. Ignjatic tried to return to the line but was told he would be refused service.
"I felt completely trampled on, the court would have served me, but the sheriff was making a point to shove in my face," said Ignjatic. "I was trying to extend my time with my daughter and left feeling like some kind of criminal."
The Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms appeared in court on Monday, June 14, on several Public Health Act tickets. At that time, the ticket against Mr. Ignjatic was dropped, as was a ticket issued to another Calgarian, also defended by the Justice Centre.
Mr. Tom Lipp, another Calgary man, was ticketed in connection with his attendance at Fairview Baptist Church on Sunday, January 10. On that Sunday, at least six law enforcement officers and two AHS officials came to the church during the worship service and were denied entry.
Mr. Lipp was issued a $1200 ticket and said he was "not exactly sure why." He suspects AHS "identified me as someone in a leadership position in the church." The $1200 ticket against Mr. Lipp has also been dropped.
Tracy Fortin, one of the pastors at Church in the Vine in Edmonton, was issued a Summons on April 11, 2021, for obstruction under the Public Health Act. The Summons was issued because Pastor Fortin allegedly denied entry to an AHS official who wanted to enter the Church during a Sunday morning worship service.
For months, Pastor Fortin stationed herself at the door of Church in the Vine to prevent AHS and Edmonton Police from repeatedly entering the church and disrupting worship - a breach of section 176 of the Criminal Code of Canada.
RB Wintringham, a popular Saskatchewan freedom fighter also known as RB Ham, is represented by the Justice Centre on eight tickets. Most tickets were issued because he attended freedom rallies. Mr. Ham believes he has been targeted for attending protests.
The Justice Centre claims he was harassed and ticketed by the government and fired from his job as a night custodian in a school for attending a freedom rally. Wintringham also received a ticket in November 2020 in Saskatchewan for allegedly failing to wear a mask.
The Justice Centre contacted the Court in Saskatoon to advise Wintringham would contest his ticket. However, his ticket was being dropped. With the Court date passed and the ticket apparently misplaced, it was never entered into the system.
Jay Cameron, lawyer and Litigation Director for the Justice Centre, said the constitution is the supreme law of the land, not public health orders. "A significant portion of the arbitrary, confusing, and oppressive Covid public health orders violate Charter rights and cannot be justified." He cites this is why prosecutors drop so many of the tickets issued for supposed violations.
"Although we are pleased to see yet more Covid-related tickets dropped because they are in violation of people’s fundamental rights, it is alarming to see the issuance of tickets so plainly used as an intimidation tactic," said Cameron. He cautions that as long as the public health orders remain, the "bureaucratic juggernaut" of AHS and "unbridled tyranny" of the Chief Provincial Health Officers will continue to punish people for exercising their Charter rights to assemble, worship and protest in disobedience to arbitrary health orders.
He also argues that some city councillors enjoy playing "tyrant" too much to usher in a return to normalcy. "They forget that municipalities are statutory delegates though and they only have limited power, which must come as a terrible disappointment to the authoritarian-inclined," said Cameron.
"Walmart will remain open, and politicians will disobey the health orders because they are above the law, and churches will remain barricaded."